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Peninei Halakha > Zemanim > 10 - The Laws of Tish’a B’Av > 2 – General Rules of the Fasts

2 – General Rules of the Fasts

There are three halachic differences between Tish’a B’Av and the minor fasts: 1) Tish’a B’Av lasts an entire day, from sunset until the emergence of the stars [the next day], while the minor fasts last only during daylight hours – from daybreak until the emergence of the stars. 2) On Tish’a B’Av, we are forbidden to do five things: a) eat and drink, b) wash ourselves, c) anoint our bodies, d) wear [leather] shoes, and e) engage in marital relations. On the minor fasts, however, we are only forbidden to eat and drink. 3) Only sick people are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av, whereas pregnant and nursing women, as well, are exempt from the other fasts.

In general, the fast of Tish’a B’Av is equal to that of Yom Kippur, for any enactment the Rabbis made regarding Tish’a B’Av was modeled after the Torah’s commandments regarding Yom Kippur. Therefore, Tish’a B’Av has the same five prohibitions that are mentioned in reference to Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, since the fast of Tish’a B’Av is a Rabbinic enactment, its laws are more lenient in two major ways: 1) The Rabbis did not require the sick to fast on Tish’a B’Av. In contrast, someone who is ill on Yom Kippur must fast, unless doing so would put his life in danger. 2) In situations of doubt, one should act strictly on Yom Kippur, but one may be lenient when it comes to Tish’a B’Av. For the rule is, when in doubt regarding a Torah law, one should be strict, but when in doubt regarding a Rabbinic law, the halachah follows the more lenient opinion.

However, Tish’a B’Av is more stringent than Yom Kippur in a certain way. On Tish’a B’Av, we are obligated to mourn. Therefore, we sit on the floor, refrain from greeting one another, darken the room at night, and limit our Torah study to sad topics. On Yom Kippur, in contradistinction, we are obligated only to deprive ourselves, but besides the five afflictions, the day is considered a holiday: We wear nice clothing, sit on [regular] seats, sing songs, exchange greetings with one another, and of course, engage in Torah study with no limits. (Unrelated to self-affliction, one is forbidden to do work on Yom Kippur, in accordance with all the laws of Shabbat.)

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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Editor: Nechama Unterman